Do you have regular career development conversations (others call them appraisals) with each of your team members individually?

Do you literally ask them if they are happy and enjoying their roles?

Do you set goals together, measure their achievements against these goals and then agree rewards together according to progress?

I recently had an over 50 health check at my local doctors surgery. They had to check my address details as they were surprised indeed that I hardly ever go to the doctors. The nurse took my blood, read my cholesterol, weighed me, took my blood pressure and summarised that I am ridiculoursly healthy for my age and should keep making the effort I make, working hard to stay fit and well. I am amazed at how much the reward of knowing that I scored very well on a health check aged 50 has buoyed my spirits and even boosted my desire to keep sweating on, in the determination that if I bother perhaps I will last longer, more comfortable and in greater spirits than those that don’t. It also udnerlined for me the importance of testing, measuring outcomes and having rewards.

Many people may feel that in a small business where you have only a few staff members and not much space for climbing the career ladder internally, staff appraisals are pointless. These people are, in my opinion, wrong. Actually you want your team to enjoy what they are doing, race to work, love adding valuable ideas, always looking for improvements and probably therefore giving more time, more concentration and often better outcomes to being part of your team.

I wrote a blog post last year about setting goals for your company, and in that I said that key staff members should be involved in this process. When goals for a company are set, these should then be allocated to key individuals at the higher management level, and then broken down into key action points which can be allocated to staff members as a part of their appraisal target for the year. These factors need to be in place and widely shared so everyone knows what part of the puzzle they contribute.

We have just had a wickedly successful company weekend – there was a lot of organisation and pre-planning for meetings with a bit of winging it mixed in. We came out of that 48 hours with loads of notes and ideas which are now being put in place for action.

Goal setting is not I think a singular leader activity, nor something to be dictated to those in the team. It should be a team effort, and all about answering the question of what is possible if everyone plays their part.

When you set a goal for the company as a whole to increase sales by a certain percentage this year, and you all own that goal each member of the team and each division plays its part in helping the end profit figure. Savings, better use of funds and less spending, not just more sales are required to achieve outstanding performance. Get your staff onside; get them involved in the goal setting process, and work together to agree a sales target which, when combined, will give planned and considered momentum towards a percentage increase for the year. Each person can then be measured against their own specific target, and rewarded both as individuals and as a team together.

When you’re running a small business, you really need your staff to be invested in the company and its outcomes. If you have people who are only there for the money, they are probably better off going to work for a big, faceless organisation where they may find it easier to coast along until home time – though they will of course still find themselves “subjected” to the staff appraisal process there any way. Small businesses need to hire the people who are invested in what you are doing, and passionate about the outcomes. You want the people who have the right attitude; aptitude can be taught. Those that come in early and stay late, not because they want the money but because they want the business to succeed and the customers to be happy. Those that roll their sleeves up, lugging boxes for events, even when they’re not in the events team; those that cut articles out of newspapers to share relevant information with each other; those that suggest better tech ideas; those that correct service shortfalls and those that are prepared to go the extra mile.

If you find that your staff members are not keen on being set goals and having regular reviews about performance perhaps they need to grow up or move on? At the interview stage you want to make clear the culture of the company, share the accountability and expectations for best perforrmance and suggest people don’t join if they are not willing to give their ounce of flesh. It is your job as their leader to explain the process to them. Educate individuals as to why you have the career development process, and why it is important that every member of the team should have goals to work towards. These can be both personal goals for the individual, and group goals for everyone to work towards. This year in Scentered we shared personal wellbeing goals as well as our own personal business objectives. Each month we have progress updates in the team briefing and progress towards goals is updated.

Traditionally too much reliance is put on only the sales target, whereas sharing the burden builds for a whole cultural effect. Individually people may want to set goals related to in-house training or even timekeeping if that’s something someone struggles with. One year, after listening to my team, I set myself a goal – or rather, a limit – of stopping interrupting people and never shouting across the office. It’s painful to admit but I was making that terrible mistake of thinking what I had to say was always the priority. After hearing that I was disrupting individuals and slowing work rates it was not that difficult to adapt, given the benefit was for all. It was hard for me to hear and take on board that as “Chief Big Potato” the thing I wanted to say was not always the most important thing going on at that moment – but I listened, and I set the goal, (we even placed a measure on it,) and it worked.

In order for your sales people to do their jobs effectively there are things your accounts and admin team members can be targeted on to speed up in-house processes and therefore assist in hitting sales targets. In small business everyone has a role to play and it is important that everyone should feel they are part of it. Timely reminders for contract renewal to aid customer retention; great customer services communications; having the best possible approach to filtering phone enquiries. All of these things add up to winning new business and keeping it. The Dorchester Hotel once informed me we had the best receptionist ever. This was a very proud moment; we had an ambassador of people relations and a three ring policy, and worked tirelessly to maintain great service standards. Does your company take this as seriously as it should be taken?

Without a regular staff review process it is easy for your company and your staff to coast along without making any major improvements. It is also easy for your team members to make great achievements without it really being noticed or commented upon. An appraisal process is a great opportunity for you as the employer to show your staff that you appreciate their efforts.

Larger companies will often offer bonuses or pay rises for staff members who achieve their goals at the end of the annual appraisal process. Small businesses are often unable to compete in quite the same way in this area, and this can be another reason many small business owners don’t want to bother with the appraisal process. While it is true that you cannot compete with a huge annual bonus or a guaranteed percentage pay increase, there are other things you can do.

At my old company we set a sales target on the promise that everyone would have a share of the excess once that target was hit. If this is not something you can do with your business, why not team up with another small business and offer your staff each other’s products or services. You could take everyone out for a meal or offer small gifts of appreciation. Often you will find that your staff are not as interested in large cash sums as they are in feeling that their work is noticed and appreciated – and that is something that is perfectly achievable, whatever your annual turnover. A thank you alone can be enormously impactful.

Written by Vicky Charles

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